Filing for Child Custody the Right Way — All U.S. States

Filing custody paperwork begins legal action

To get your child custody case started, you have to file the proper forms. Filing is turning documents in to the court clerk to present relevant information.

Visualize your schedule. Get a written parenting plan. Calculate your parenting time.

Make My Schedule and Plan Now

Steps to filing child custody forms

If you've hired a lawyer, they will take care of opening a case. If you're opening a case pro se (representing yourself), you're responsible for filing.

Follow these steps to file for child custody in your state:

  1. Speak with a lawyer. While you're not required to have a lawyer, it's a good idea to at least consult with one.
  2. Know the law. Take the time to research custody laws and procedures in your state. Write down any questions you have.
  3. Access forms online. Many states now make their custody forms available online, including the ones necessary to open a case.
  4. Complete the forms. Make sure you fill the documents in accurately and completely. Direct any questions to a lawyer or your court clerk.
  5. File the forms. Turn the paperwork, along with the filing fee, in to the court clerk at your local family court. You'll be notified of the next step in your case.

Filing information by state and district

Always contact your court to learn about any local rules or processes. Select your state for localized information.

Alabama Hawaii Massachusetts New Mexico South Dakota
Alaska Idaho Michigan New York Tennessee
Arizona Illinois Minnesota North Carolina Texas
Arkansas Indiana Mississippi North Dakota Utah
California Iowa Missouri Ohio Vermont
Colorado Kansas Montana Oklahoma Virginia
Connecticut Kentucky Nebraska Oregon Washington
Delaware Louisiana Nevada Pennsylvania West Virginia
Florida Maine New Hampshire Rhode Island Wisconsin
Georgia Maryland New Jersey South Carolina Wyoming

Using technology to help you file

The Custody X Change app can help you complete many items necessary for your case.

Use the app to create a detailed parenting plan and visitation schedule. It can also quickly calculate parenting time percentages and overnight visits for use in child support formulas.

Use Custody X Change to print or share whatever you need, letting you deliver professional-quality documents to the other parent, lawyers and the court.

Visualize your schedule. Get a written parenting plan. Calculate your parenting time.

Make My Schedule and Plan Now

Explore examples of common schedules

Explore common schedules

Join the 60,000+ other parents who have used our co-parenting tools

Organize your evidence

Track your expenses, journal what happens, and record actual time. Print organized, professional documents.

Co-parent civilly

Our parent-to-parent messaging system, which detects hostile language, lets you collaborate without the drama.

Get an accurate child support order

Child support is based on parenting time or overnights in most jurisdictions. Calculate time instead of estimating.

Succeed by negotiating

Explore options together with visual calendars and detailed parenting plans. Present alternatives and reach agreement.

Never forget an exchange or activity

Get push notifications and email reminders, sync with other calendar apps and share with the other parent.

Save up to $50,000 by avoiding court

Write your parenting agreement without lawyers. Our templates walk you through each step.

Make My Plan



Long distance schedules

Third party schedules


Summer break

Parenting provisions


How to make a schedule

Factors to consider

Parenting plans:

Making a parenting plan

Changing your plan

Interstate, long distance

Temporary plans

Guides by location:

Parenting plans

Scheduling guidelines

Child support calculators

Age guidelines:

Birth to 18 months

18 months to 3 years

3 to 5 years

5 to 13 years

13 to 18 years


Joint physical custody

Sole physical custody

Joint legal custody

Sole legal custody

Product features:

Software overview

Printable calendars

Parenting plan templates

Journal what happens

Expense sharing

Parenting time tracking

Calculate time & overnights

Ways to use:

Succeed by negotiating

Prepare for mediation

Get ready for court


Bring calm to co‑parenting. Agree on a schedule and plan. Be prepared with everything documented.

Make My Schedule and Plan Now

No thanks, I don't need a parenting plan